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on the border line between the US and Mexico

Friday, January 26, 2024

Violence And Addiction Rob Juarez, The Epicenter Of Crime In Chihuahua, Of Its Youths

"Sol Prendido" for Borderland Beat

Escalating violence has robbed many of its young people and forced them to drop out of school and become involved themselves, turn to drugs and alcohol to try to cope with the bloodshed, or a mixture of both.

Children of war

On the façade of one of the most emblematic hills in Ciudad Juárez, passersby can read an enormous legend written by evangelical Christians for a quarter of a century: “The Bible is the Truth.”

But starting in 2008, at the base of these mountains near the border between the United States and Mexico, an elementary school teacher named Lourdes* saw any vestige of mercy disappear among young people who relentlessly killed each other, without caring about their status. own religious formation of love for one's neighbor, nor the presence of girls and boys.

Fifteen years later, although the total number of murders has decreased, Juárez remains one of the cities with the most homicides in Mexico. Today, young people murder each other at an alarming rate. Just before the end of 2023, the city had accounted for more than half of the homicides recorded in the northern state of Chihuahua.

Surrounded on all sides by mountains and desert, Juárez is part of a huge “international border metroplex” made up of three international ports of entry that connect it to El Paso, Texas, long one of the safest American cities on the other side of border. The sister cities form an enormously important corridor for manufacturing and international trade between the United States and Mexico.

Many of the murders in the city are linked to the dozens of rival criminal groups fighting for control of several lucrative criminal economies, including drug trafficking. Death haunts the students of Lourdes. This has stripped many of the youth of it and forced them to drop out of school and engage in violence themselves, turn to drugs and alcohol to try to cope with the bloodshed, or a mix of both.

Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua

They leave a hole in my soul,” he told InSight Crime.

Lourdes directs a primary school in the Anáhuac neighborhood, a working-class neighborhood near the center of Juárez that has remained one of the critical points of urban violence since the peak of violence between 2008 and 2012. The consumption of alcohol and of drugs, as in the rest of the popular neighborhoods of the city, is usually linked to murders and disappearances of young women and men.

The environment irremediably affects the future of the 135 primary school students, where at least half have one of their parents dead or imprisoned, or are themselves victims of abuse, according to Lourdes.

“We are talking about girls and boys who are mentally and emotionally very affected, who can hardly learn anything in the classrooms because they are blocked by the tremendous context in which they live, with a lot of violence and a lot of drugs,” says the teacher.

Routine violence is occasionally punctuated by particularly gruesome incidents. In May of this year, very close to the campus, the operators of a rehabilitation center received a patient addicted to methamphetamine and ended up suffocating her. The two women dissected her body to tear off the skin and muscles until freeing her bones; They removed the viscera, placed them in buckets with acid and proceeded to grind everything in a blender.

Violence generates hostile environments for children. Illustrative image.

Violence generates hostile environments for children.

“We just try to give them some hope,” says the teacher, referring to her students. “The authorities don't realize that these children need a lot of support, so that's what we try to do with the little we have.”


Providing a solid foundation for the youth of Juárez is an enormous challenge. Beyond simply keeping them safe, city violence has other secondary impacts that affect children's development in school and family life that educators must take into account.

Lourdes recalled a particularly difficult day in May, when about 20 students attentively followed the instructions of her dance teacher as they prepared a dance tableau for Mother's Day.

More than half of the girls and boys decided not to take part in the trial. Some because they had lost their mother and others because they know that they will not come, because they are imprisoned or brutalized at home due to drug use.

Some children don't come to class at all. Between 2010 and 2020, Juárez's population increased from approximately 1.3 million to 1.6 million. But the number of students who finished primary school during that time fell more than 50 percent, from 174,366 in 2010 to just 77,832 in 2020, according to a 2022 report published by Ciudad Juárez Strategic Plan, a non-governmental organization that works to improve living conditions in the city.

Experts say that more than a decade of violence has had a deeper impact on education than the COVID-19 health crisis. 

The report analyzed the city's educational system using data from the National Institute of Statistics, Geography and Informatics (Inegi) and focused on the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the health crisis affected enrollment, experts said more than a decade of violence has had a deeper impact. The phenomenon is closely related to the violence of recent years, not so much as a direct effect, but as a consequence of institutional abandonment, according to the researcher at the Autonomous University of Juárez, Hugo Almada.

“Juárez is a city that has never had social policies,” he says. “In such a way that the conditions that mark a growing deterioration are many years old and cannot be explained without reviewing the recent past.”

This new generation of Juarenses, as locals are known, is not the first to experience endemic violence. His parents experienced the atrocities experienced in the city between 2008 and 2012, after former President Felipe Calderón's “war on drugs” in late 2006. During that period, the city witnessed more than two thousand murders a year.

While growing up, these parents lived in neighborhoods under the yoke of violent gangs made up of the children of a first wave of immigrants in the midst of the manufacturing industry boom in the 1970s.

Violence has contaminated the lives of boys and girls, many of whom now work as criminal operators. 

To a large extent, crime has always had its origin in drug trafficking and consumption, given the role of the state in production and the location of the city on the border. Since the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994, the volume of both phenomena grew significantly.

By 1998, the then chief of the local police, Rubén Garduño, spoke of the existence of 300 “war” gangs, the euphemism used to refer to urban armies involved in the narcotics business. In less than a decade, about two thousand picaderos, as the points of sale and supply of cocaine and heroin, and more recently crystal and fentanyl, were operating in the city.

The street dimension of such figures could be seen during the first year of the Joint Operation instructed by the federal government for Chihuahua in 2008. The criminal objectives of that first stage basically included crossing operators—young middle class people, knowledgeable about the transportation system. customs—chiefs of the local police forces and members of the 300 gangs mentioned by Garduño in 1998.

But the violence spread to the east, where urban growth was originally anticipated in the context of the signing of NAFTA.

This same year, teacher Lourdes directly witnessed the way in which the parents of the students in her care became intimidating. He saw how the violence they exerted or of which they were victims ended up contaminating the lives of those boys and girls, many of whom are now the operators of the criminal system that surrounds a hundred primary schools distributed between one end of the city and the other.

A police officer places an evidence marker at a crime scene.

“This is a generation that brings or was born with consequences of the crisis of violence that we experienced between 2008 and 2012,” says Almada, the researcher.


Due to the lack of institutional support, there were, and still are, primarily two paths for the young people Lourdes taught: join the ranks of warring criminal groups, fall into alcohol and drug addiction, or both.

In all of Mexico, Juárez has long had one of the highest rates of drug addiction, according to data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). This, in part, due to the city's proximity to the United States, the main destination for drugs trafficked from Mexico.

The long-term effects of addiction are evident in the sharp decline in health among those who come seeking help, but especially in the number of overdose deaths and murders among users at a level not seen before.

Commonly criticized for its lack of rigor, the last national addiction survey in Mexico was conducted in 2016. But at least it served as a baseline to measure the problem, which was much larger than projected by official statistics. Today, one of the drugs made invisible by that last survey that is devastating this city is crystal, or methamphetamine.

Methamphetamine, also known as crystal, is a highly addictive synthetic stimulant drug that produces a feeling of euphoria among those who use it. Currently there is a great demand for its low cost compared to other synthetics.

But it was not always like this. Since the 1920s and 1930s, heroin had been the most available and consumed drug in Juárez. The southern region of Chihuahua is part of the so-called “Golden Triangle”, which for many years was the epicenter of poppy cultivation in Mexico, the raw material used to produce heroin, until plant-based drugs were replaced by powerful synthetic drugs.

This included methamphetamine, which, according to local activists and community leaders, first appeared around 2010 and is now the second most used drug in Juárez, behind marijuana. The problem with methamphetamine is its degree of corrosion and lethality among users, and the pattern of criminal violence that it unleashes due to its commercialization. Nine out of 10 murders are related to this, according to reports from the state prosecutor's office and the city's Public Security Secretariat.

Much of the alcohol and drug addiction in Juárez arises from the desire to escape the psychological pressure of daily life, says Verónica Corchado, former director of the Municipal Women's Institute, who has a long history as a human rights activist and cultural promotion.

“I'm not justifying it, I'm just thinking how these people might think. When you hear it in therapy, when you hear it in talks, in self-help groups, in everything you read a deep tiredness that does not allow you to identify horizons.”

Young people are forced to think only about survival. Corchado remembers a summer camp she was invited to last year. The group she led was made up of young women and men, as well as teenagers. She asked them to do a routine exercise: list the things that make them afraid and then imagine what an ideal environment would be like for them.

A culture of violence affects children, especially in the face of their daily exposure to violent and criminal acts on the streets. Illustrative image.

“They knew how to perfectly structure their fears and explain them. But no one knew how to say how it could be different,” he said. “They were unable to visualize an environment with parks, clean streets and lighting. That thought no longer exists and this, for me, is a terrible setback,” he said.

Sin Enbargo


  1. Devastating article! Where in the fuck did the billions and billions go in USA aid? Definitely not to help that poverty stricken city. Truth be told those youth are nothing more than cannon fodder, young girls to be abused, addicts to be served, and expendable beings to be used as the deviant leaders see fit. It’s disgusting and pathetic. Not one criminal group says don’t fuck with the kids. They are all rabid savages that need to be put down, but never will be. That goes for the pathetic or scared law enforcement. These animals all claim they have so called criminal standards, yet they all rape, kidnap, extort, dismember, traffic in whatever makes money. Nothing is off limits. You want to know the single reason this disgusting shit wouldn’t happen in small town USA? Citizens are legally armed and WILL ALWAYS HAVE THAT RIGHT! As far as the inner city liberal anti gun paradises/utopias of USA. Classic move of disarm the population(criminals don’t follow the stupid gun laws in the inner cities), make them gov dependent on food(ebt), and tell them they are victims. I’ll just speak the truth as I see it here and stay in my small town and any of those fucks try to do any shit in my town. We r farmers, fire fighters, truck drivers, etc… we are well armed many of us ex. Vets and we will crush these punk groups. Come try that shit here you serial mass rapist of little girls and killers of young men!
    For those here who idolize or cheer in this criminal group or that one… the fact is you’re cheering on serial rapist gangs so yeah truth hurts!

    1. What happens is that people in the mexican government find ways to steal every dollar they can.

    2. 10:24
      Yes lots in yearly AID given to Mexico, we all know curupt government officials pocket the money, then the bribes they get from Cartels, I am sure when those, that are out of office will live a life of luxury, all the while hard working citizens suffer.

    3. You make it out like the USA is so honest and truthful, The same stuff goes on with that govt as well, except its on another level. Suckers ..LOL

  2. Un pinchi desmadre aca en Juarez y El Paso TX..... I'm here in the streets trying to survive day in day out... The shit that happens, the number of the dead no longer registers you just thank God that it wasn't you or yours. People change from day to day, new alianzes or someone trying to take that top position. It's hard to trust outhere man. Will it ever end? Probably not this place is the wild west every other neighborhood is a different cartel. This place will never be runned by one group ever again, everybody has a good foothold nowadays.

  3. Juarez 2008 to 2012 was just too much bear

  4. @10:24 Small towns? Lol. You're comparing those to big cities with millions of residents.
    Guns are for sale in states in the USA,but the difference is in some, the laws that are added are stricter checks and no assault rifles.


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